In 2002, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked Joel Klein to take on the daunting job of chancellor of the city's public school system. Five years later, Joel talks to Dr. Oz about the importance of education, the changes New York City has made to its system, and what parents can do to help.
Joel says that he has a passion about public education, instilled in him by his own experience in New York's school system. "The teachers in this city changed my life," he says. "They gave me a vision, an education and a sense of opportunity that, when I was a kid, would have been unimaginable."
Joel says several things are necessary to create an ideal classroom, beginning with discipline and order. "[Without them] you have a lot of chaos and confusion, and then education doesn't take place," Joel says. High-quality teachers, community partnerships, and the restoration of arts and physical education programs also contribute to a successful school, Joel says.
A program Joel says he helped institute holds principals accountable for their schools' performances, and rewards them accordingly. Consistently high ratings earn a principal a salary boost, while consistently poor ratings could cost them their job. In addition, principals who take on tough schools and create change can earn additional bonuses.
Another of Joel's successes is an upgrade to the school lunch program. "The trick is to provide healthy, nourishing foods and to get kids to eat it," he says. A private chef works with the students on taste and presentation, and success is measured by how the kids feel about the food.
For parents, emphasizing the importance of education is critical, Joel says. "[Kids] have got to get the notion that it takes a lot of hard work and delayed gratification to lead a successful life," he says. He also stresses parent involvement in schools, through parent-teacher associations, parent groups, or school leadership teams, all of which are ways for parents to participate in deciding programming and budgetary issues.
Ultimately, anything parents can do is helpful, Joel says. "Schools need your involvement—from getting involved in your child's school, supporting it, figuring out ways to do things the school needs, even helping raise money for the school for discretionary funds," he says.